What’s in news?
Scientists in Japan will begin trying to grow human organs in animals after receiving government permission for the first study of its kind in the country.
- The cutting-edge — but controversial — research involves implanting modified animal embryos with human “induced pluripotent stem” (iPS) cells that can be coaxed into forming the building blocks of any part of the body.
- A Japanese scientist from the University of Tokyo just got permission from the government to create animal embryos that contain human cells, Nature reports — work that could lead, eventually, to growing human organs in animal hosts for the purpose of transplantation.
- The Japanese government specifically banned letting an embryo grow to full term until its change in policy this month, which now allows them to stay alive beyond 14 days.
- The UK, Germany and France do not allow human stem cells to be put into animal embryos.
Idea behind this:
- Lead researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi has already genetically modified rats and mice to not grow a pancreas.
- The mice only required a few days of treatment to stop their bodies rejecting the organs, before the pancreas began producing insulin as normal.
- Next, his team will try to place human stem cells in fertilized eggs of those animals to enable them to grow a pancreas again.
- The goal is to one day grow human organs inside pigs or sheep, responding to a shortage of organs available for transplantation.
Problem with this experiment:
- But before you think such an experiment could have us end up with man-animal hybrids and cats with human celebrity faces, you should think again.
- The number of human cells grown in the bodies of sheep is extremely small, like one in thousands or one in tens of thousands.
- At that level, an animal with a human face will never be born.
- The researchers won’t be able to control how the animals’ bodies use the human cells, nor how much of the creature becomes ‘human’.
- For instance, if a large number of human cells were used to form the brain, the animal could become ‘humanized’ and unusually intelligent.
- Xenotransplantation, or heterologous transplant is the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another (for instance from animals to humans in this case).
- Such cells, tissues or organs are called xenografts or xenotransplants.
- For example in this case, he valves of pigs’ or cows’ hearts can be used to replace those of people having surgery for heart disease.
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